To a drone-free 2015!

I got to spend about a month in Iraq with Kathy Kelly (and the rest of our delegation) before the US invasion on the Compassion Iraq Peacewalk. A few years later, a younger Joshua did this short video piece for my denomination as they were helping people navigate political engagement as Anabaptists. I’ve only seen Kathy once since, but we got to re-connect a bit. She and her work continue to shape me. She gets in the mix for peace whether it’s in Chicago, Iraq, or Afghanistan. Her warm smile and imaginative dissent make it hard to not want to be like her. 

Kathy is in the news again – this time not for being nominated for a prestigious award but for going to lock up [again]. Here’s a five minute video about how she is getting three months for bringing a loaf of bread to a Drone Command Center.

http://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2014/12/29/peace_activist_kathy_kelly_heads_to

I’m still pumped up after 50 of us Pennsylvanians gathered to demonstrate and do some liturgical worship of the newborn Prince of Peace at the Horsham Air Guard Station last Saturday, the proposed future home of a new US Drone war Command Center. Like Sandra Strauss in her piece for Philly.com, many of us question the use of lethal drones. The statistics for drone deaths are hard to calculate, since many are done by the CIA and their stats include lies like counting all men of military age in strike zones as combatants.

One sobering estimate that should haunt Americans is that it takes killing 28 innocent brown people for drones to kill one suspected terrorist – and that without any trials. Most reports don’t include that these murder victims are not white – but I have still not heard of any white people getting killed by drone warfare.

What is the church now that we are a decade into a unmanned military state waging secret drone wars that have now stretched into Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, the Philippines, Libya, Mali, and Lebanon? A year ago, Obama said that 5yrs and 2,400 dead due to drone strikes caused him to wrestle with civilian causalities but it’s really about keeping American people safe. This animation called Out of Sight, Out of Mind show the insanity and a few stories of drone strikes in Pakistan.

Blew shared her moving spoken word piece at the demonstration for peace, here is an excerpt [from the perspective of a mother living in a strike zone]…

We call them “Bangadan”..buzzing of a bee…They hover. All day. Louder at night. No war declared but you bomb my people…I hold my babies tight.

And hope we will see tomorrow together..I hear the wailing of a mother, my neighbor lost their baby before their eyes…All dust. No warning.Wailing all day. Louder at night.Tears find their home on my cheek.Praying for my children, these precious souls that birthed from my womb..”

My prayer today is for a drone-free 2015. Could the Church in the States add one more item to our New Year’s Resolution? Do we have it in our collective heart to stop something that so many know little about? Let’s get loud and put an end to this heinous policy of drone warfare.

Have a good stint, Kathy. Thanks for leading the way.

Three ways to turn up the Love during a violent week

On November 17, 1957 MLK was preaching in Montgomery [full text and lots of audio here] when he said “Somewhere somebody must have some sense. Men must see that force begets force, hate begets hate, toughness begets toughness. And it is all a descending spiral, ultimately ending in destruction for all and everybody. Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love.” It’s actually pretty simple. I have a lot of feelings – some of which might be approaching hate and I need to check my heart.

I’m heavy today for Iraq, Kurdistan, Syria, ISIS, and the United States. I am also feeling heavy about the situation around the violent conflict that put a gay couple in the hospital in Center City a two weeks ago. As I’ve been praying through (always wise) all the violence, I am trying to listen for God to direct me for how to respond rather than shoot from the hip all the time. Here are three things that I feel will turn up the love during a particularly violent week.

Turn up the good news, especially those that fly in the face of conventional hate.

One of my best friends leaves today on a Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation to Iraqi Kurdistan. You may want to read more about what Peggy Gish (working there now with CPT) had to say about it last week in her blog about a step to coming up with new strategies is halting the old, dysfunctional ones. I tend to think most things in the media [whether intentional or not] pull Americans away from the super military waging war for the windfall of profits for transnational corporations. Like so many other empires, if we have enough food to survive and something to keep us entertained we’ll tacitly go along with the bigger plan.

When ISIS cuts off heads on camera or gets headlines from Austrailia to Indonesia to Algeria, the US ramps up fear which increases our tacit approval of this horrible war. When we turn up the good news, God can use us to assuage fear that keeps the violence cycle going. Come out on October 7 to make some good news in the face of Drone Warfare if you want to be with a bunch of Philadelphians trying to do the same thing.

Before you put someone on blast, consider whether you are actually as confident as you are about to sound. It’s easy and often cheap to make blanket statements, stereotypes, and colorful remarks to get people to “like” your passionate status before we understand what we’re really talking about. As someone whose attempts to make space for more dialogue and often is dips into the rhetorical, I need to watch my mouth – and it’s hard.

I feel fortunate that it wasn’t too long after I read the “Meet the Three Worst People in Philadelphia” blog that I saw a beautiful statement by the victims. For some it’s tempting to dehumanize the victims by not listening to them as people by not taking their ask seriously.

Thank you to the  community for their help and support, as well as the Detectives who did a great job gathering details,” they wrote. “We are thankful the DA is working so hard to make sure this doesn’t happen again in Philadelphia. Finally, we ask you to keep your comments regarding the suspects respectful and non-hateful. Please show your support for legislation change protecting the LGBT community this Thursday in LOVE Park at 2 p.m.

For others it’s tempting to dehumanize the perps in all sorts of ways, by doing so alleviating our responsibility to make a more whole community. You may want to join the throngs of posts commenting on their parents, Twitter feed, zip codes, or work history – as if we know them, don’t think they can get better, and don’t think we are anything like them. I really appreciate people for zooming out even through the pain. Besides having an occasion to update PA’s lack of “hate crime” distinction for future violence prevention, some people are even taking a societal sense of responsibility in their anger. On a Raging Chicken Press post, Debra Leigh Scott pleads that the “reality is that Kathryn Knott [one of the suspects] is OUR child. She is the poster child of the kind of people born and raised in America. Fired in the kiln of inequality, elitism, prejudice, consumerism and fear, she is just what America’s schools, media and values create.”

We need to make more love. MLK was working with some Jesus in Matthew 26 when he was preaching above. Like him, I don’t want to go out as a person to die by the sword – whether it a physical or metaphorical weapon. Living by the sword is confusingLike when my cell was talking about how confusing violence in the Middle East is for us, Scott shared this little gem.

We need more lovers and we need them to outlove the haters and transform the bystanders. We need lovers who will demonstrate to others what it means to be a lover. We need love to dismantle systemic injustice. We need love to make our communities whole. What do you think we can do to turn up the Love this week?

As I finish the 2nd steeping of pu-erh (that was love-ly at least), I’m about to go hug my family and take them to celebrate the compassionate work in our community. Come on by if you want to be with some lovers tonight.

Ethnicity/Immigration blog #6

Happiness & Freedom vs. Imagination & Responsibility

(spoiler alert for the film Dirty, Pretty things that we had to watch in class).

I was in full agreement with Dr. Allen when he talked about the antagonist in Dirty Pretty Things, Señor Juan aka Sneaky, being the image of capitalism.  The most telling moment of this is when Señor Juan is trying to get Okwe to join his shady business dealings as he offers…
“You give me your kidney; I give you a new identity.  I sell the kidney for ten grand, so I’m happy.  The person who needs the kidney gets cured.  So, he’s happy. The person who sold his kidney gets to stay in this beautiful country, so he’s happy.  My whole business is based on happiness.”

This lack of imagination and responsibility is at the center of what keeps people perpetuating broken systems of economy, government, poverty, and violence.  This post by Ian Hanson captures a brilliant moment in Haruki Marukami’s Kafka on the Shore when one of the characters is musing about Adolf Eichmann. This Nazi mathematician later defended his lack of moral responsibility for his work not of not ethnic cleansing and enslavement but mathematical efficiency.  Perhaps that is because he lacked the imagination.

One hegemonic notion in the US is that “our whole business” is based on freedom.  The formation of the country, the foreign policy, and economy are based on freedom.  If you don’t like it, you must not like freedom.

How many times in your life have you heard a politician sound similar to Señor Juan,  spouting off about freedom while we spend a trillion  dollars on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?  When we talk about building a wall across the Mexico-US border?   When we try to move on after centuries of genocide and denial of reparations for the enslavement of Africans and their decedents?

I felt happy at the end of Dirty, Pretty Things because I was surprised by the poetic justice  for the villain and outright victory for the heroes.  I have a similar skepticism for the world we live in.  I carry it along with my hope to be surprised.